Krysta Palmer took up diving when she was 20 at the suggestion of some friends. At 29, she made her Olympic debut and became the first American woman to win a medal in an individual diving event since Laura Wilkinson took gold at the Sydney Games in 2000.
While competing on a torn ACL, Palmer posted a total score of 343.75 and snagged the bronze in the women's individual 3m springboard final. Shi Tingmao and Wang Han finished in the top two spots, raising China's total medal count across diving events in Tokyo to six. The only diving event in which China has not won gold at these Olympics was the men's 10m synchronized platform.
Palmer's place on the podium comes as a bit of a shock after she nearly failed to advance beyond the preliminary round. The top 18 qualified to semifinals, and Palmer finished 15th. She climbed to fifth in the next round and, with a chance at a medal on the line, nailed all of her dives in the final to place third. Her bronze marks the first medal for the U.S. in the event since Kelly McCormick won bronze in 1988.
From the first dive, Shi made it clear why she was the gold-medal favorite. The reigning champion scored 75 or higher on all five of her dives and posted the top score in each individual round. Her total score of 383.50 was over 34 points higher than Wang's, who captured silver at age 30 in her Olympic debut. The gold is Shi's second of the Tokyo Games after she won the women's synchronized 3m springboard competition with Wang, and it is the ninth consecutive Olympic gold in the event for China. The winning streak stretches back to the 1988 Seoul Games.
Palmer remained within striking distance of Wang throughout the event, coming particularly close in Round 3 when she scored a 73.50 on a piked reverse 2.5 somersault. Her final dive, a piked forward 2.5 somersault with two twists, was the most difficult of the competition. Only one other diver, Canadian Jennifer Abel, attempted it.
Hailey Hernandez finished ninth overall, improving on her 10th place placement from qualifications. At 18, she is the youngest member of the U.S. women’s diving team in Tokyo.
Abel, who was favored to win bronze behind Shi and Wang after finishing 4th in Rio, fell out of medal contention in Round 3 due to a missed dive that only scored 39 points. She was the lone diver from Canada in the final after her teammate Pamela Ware failed to complete her final dive of the semifinals and dropped to the bottom of the standings.